Synopses & Reviews
Published anonymously in 1776 - the year of the American Declaration of Independence - Paine's "Common Sense" became an immediate bestseller. More than any other factor, it was this pamphlet which sparked off the movement that established the independence of the United States.
Published anonymously in 1776, the year of the American Declaration of Independence, Paine's Common Sense became an immediate best-seller, with fifty-six editions printed in that year alone. It was this pamphlet, more than any other factor, which helped to spark off the movement that established the independence of the United States. From his experience of revolutionary politics, Paine drew those principles of fundamental human rights which, he felt, must stand no matter what excesses are committed to obtain them, and which he later formulated in his Rights of Man.
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About the Author
Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, the son of a staymaker. He had little schooling and worked at a number of jobs, including tax collector, a position he lost for agitating for an increase in excisemen's pay. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, he emigrated to America in 1774. In 1776 he began his American Crisis series of thirteen pamphlets, and also published the incalculably influential Common Sense, which established Paine not only as a truly revolutionary thinker, but as the American Revolution's fiercest political theorist. In 1787 Paine returned to Europe, where he became involved in revolutionary politics. In England his books were burned by the public hangman. Escaping to France, Paine took part in drafting the French constitution and voted against the king's execution. He was imprisoned for a year and narrowly missed execution himself. In 1802 he returned to America and lived in New York State, poor, ill and largely despised for his extremism and so-called atheism (he was in fact a deist). Thomas Paine died in 1809. His body was exhumed by William Cobbett, and the remains were taken to England for a memorial burial. Unfortunately, the remains were subsequently lost.
Table of Contents
Background to the American Revolution, 1776
From staymaker to revolutionary: The life and career of Tom Paine
The argument of Common Sense
Bourgeois radicalism - the ideology of Tom Paine
Paine and the American bicentennial
Notes to Editor's Introduction
A Note on the Text
Suggestions for Further Reading
Of the Origin and Design of Government in General
Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession
Thoughts on the present State of American Affairs
Of the present Ability of America, with some misellaneous Reflexions
To the Representatives of the Religious Society of the People called Quakers